by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The case for constitutional limited government is the case against Donald Trump. To the degree we take him at his word — understanding that Trump is a negotiator whose positions are often purposefully deceptive — what he advocates is a rejection of our Madisonian inheritance and an embrace of Barack Obama’s authoritarianism.
Trump assures voters that he will use authoritarian power for good, to help those who feel — with good reason — ignored by both parties. But the American experiment in self-government was the work of a generation that risked all to defeat a tyrannical monarch and establish a government of laws, not men. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is precisely what the Constitution offers, and what is most threatened by “great men” impatient to impose their will on the nation.
Conservatives should reject Trump’s hollow, Euro-style identity politics. But conservatives have far more to learn from his campaign than many might like to admit. The Trump voter is moderate, disaffected, with patriotic instincts. He feels disconnected from the GOP and other broken public institutions, left behind by a national political elite that no longer believes he matters.
Trump’s current popularity reveals something good. President Obama’s core domestic-policy agenda was designed to pull working- and middle-class voters left. It assumed that once they received the government’s redistributive largesse, they would be invested in maintaining it — and maintaining the Left in power. Trump’s rise bespeaks the utter failure of this program for the American working class: They have seen the Left’s agenda up close and do not believe it is good enough to make a nation great.
In order to build a governing majority, conservatives do not need Trump’s message or agenda, but they urgently need his supporters.